Reflections: A Year Review

With 2019 here and catching me somewhat off guard I thought it would a good opportunity to start off the year right- with nothing but good intentions, organisation and a blog post to make it look as though I have got my life together all by day one of 365. After this it's all down hill from here I assure you. Sure I might have spent my morning moving mess from one corner to another, just to take some photos that I will be able to recycle throughout the year in my office while it has just the right lighting, but that is for me to know and my therapist to find out.

Rambling aside this blog post is all about reflecting on the year we have just said goodbye to and looking ahead to what 2019 may or may not hold. Last year I created a blog post all about my view on the dreaded new years resolutions, why I wouldn't be taking part and what I would like to achieve for 2018, no strings attached.

So to recap-

 Reach 5,000 followers on Instagram.

So maybe this isn't the best place to start (or maybe it is just to prove a point) but I can safely say that this super ambitious goal was not achieved. However I think I was a little too cocky with this goal. Maybe I was still tipsy from New Years or maybe I was naive in thinking that the social media algorithms that have ruled the internet would be kind to me. Either way this goal has not been met but my following on Instagram has certainly grown from strength to strength and this still remains my favourite social media platform by far! Isn't half the battle loving what you do after all? It's not all doom and gloom though as I am just over 820 short of my target. I think 2019 might just be my year...

 Reach 550 likes on Facebook.

This is a goal I can say that I have reached! My Facebook page has been fairly stagnant even though I update it with the same content as my Instagram feed and it is where my small business journey began. Could Facebook be on the way out? That being said it is a platform I like to be connected to simply because you will always have that divide by people who solely use that platform and those who don't. I can think of plenty of my customers who only contact me via Facebook and frequently connect with my posts. As it stands I have 554 followers on Facebook which is definitely a number that I would like to see grow again in 2019.

 Reach 250 sales in my Etsy shop.

This was a target that was really important to me and my small business journey not only in terms of the 'numbers' but also in how I operated which I will go into a little later. This is another goal that I managed to smash this year with my current total standing at 269! I took a total of 115 orders from 95 customers on Etsy alone and to break that down further that is 41% more orders than 2017! In fact all the figures on my Etsy shop for the year are up (along with their fees but we will leave that rant for another day).

 Reach 80 reviews in my Etsy shop.

This might seem like an odd target to set myself but I believe that customer reviews are invaluable. I mean, who wouldn't want to hear about other peoples experiences not only with the products but the actual business itself before placing an order? There have been so many things I have had my heart set on but as soon as I have read the reviews it has totally changed my mind. Reviews are powerful but they are also hard to come by. Earlier in the year I calculated that less than 30% of my sales had review left afterwards. This year alone I have had 32 wonderful, five star reviews left at my shop which are an absolute joy to read! Here's hoping for many more in 2019...

 Use my Etsy shop for 90% of my sales this year.

This was probably the most important goal of the year for me. For far too long I had been taking orders from a whole host of different locations- social media, email and my Etsy shop. As wonderful as it is to be able to offer so much choice and flexibility for my customers it was beginning to make my turnaround time and organisation of orders a complete nightmare. I worried constantly that I might have somehow missed an order or that people were waiting too long for theirs simply because they had messaged me rather than ordered via Etsy where I had a strict turnaround time in place. So I made a decision that I would try to encourage customers to order via my Etsy shop where possible and with the introduction of the 'guest' checkout option, this proved to be a success! The majority of my customers purchased items via my shop, particularly in mid-late 2018 when I became more confident in suggesting it to my customers. Would I say it was 90%? Probably not but it is an amount that I am happy with for sure.

 Create a website to showcase my work.

Well this is one that we can say with confidence has been achieved. Not only does it showcase my work but it has provided a means to purchase tickets for my workshops, highlight events, share more about me and has introduced my followers to this blog which has in turn been a platform for other makers to shout about all of the amazing things they do through my 'Meet the Maker' monthly interviews. There is still more growth and development to be done but considering it isn't even a year old yet, I'd say it has been a success!

 Collaborate more with other small businesses.

Initially I looked at this and wished that it was something that I had done more of but then I have to remind myself that 'collaboration' isn't just about giveaways and working on projects together, it is so much more than that. When you think outside of the box and what my aspirations had been for the year, I have actually done this in leaps and bounds. As I mentioned, my 'Meet the Maker' interviews have provided a space for small businesses to share their work, experiences and values to a wider audience. I also went solo in leading workshops but in doing so supported another small business and have opened them up to the possibility of having external makers in their fantastic space. I attended craft fairs and events such as Fibre East to support small businesses and their hard working owners. I continued to shop small this year not only personally but professionally too, sourcing new suppliers and sharing them with the small business community. But above all I continued to support the wonderful small business community on social media, making even more friends and working with them through difficult circumstances. I would say it's been a very diverse year of collaboration indeed.

 Find time for the other hobbies that make me, me!

This was another important goal for me this year. I have mentioned before just how guilty I have felt with my complicated and slightly non-existent home/work/small business/life balance. In 2018 I just wanted to be able to keep on top of the things that were important to me, take time out to do the things I enjoy while also keeping my business afloat. Piece of cake right? Well I like to think I have started on the road to being kinder to myself and I have achieved much of what I set out to do. For one thing I actually took a break for Christmas for the first time in over three years and I gave myself a window of up to 4 weeks to complete each order. I also stuck to a schedule for elements of my business that I could control such as photography, packaging and posting which meant that my time to make also had a routine too. Saturday's went back to tidying the house, cooking and finishing up orders while my other half was out playing rugby which meant that Sunday could be left for family time such as long dog walks, trips out and everything else in between along with packaging while dinner was cooked for me by my partner. Week day evenings however tight they may be were also less pressured. Rather than seeing them as time to finish hoops, I used them as a time to work away on sections of pieces. If I managed to get a hoop or two done during the working week then great, if not then it could still be achieved at the weekend.

Not only was this good for me mentally but also for my relationship and as it turns out, my health. 2018 was also the year that I realised I was overdoing it. I suffered two injuries- one relating to cleaning (I knew it would be the end of me) and the other relating to sewing. Both made me realise that I was working too hard and pushing myself too much. I had to take a lot of time out and this made me realise just how much sewing meant to me and how much I missed it when I couldn't do it. This was a turning point for me. If I wanted to continue building my empire I had to be kinder to myself otherwise the tendentious that I had developed from working too hard would stop me completely at the age of 25. There is still room for improvement and so much I want to achieve, but my schedule along with paying myself an hourly rate has certainly helped me and my mental health.

So what does 2019 hold for me? Well I'm not quite sure yet but I am certainly entering it with a positive and optimistic outlook. I have been extremely fortunate that for the past three years my business has grown from strength to strength and of course I would like that to continue. If the numbers could keep going up and I could be on par with 2018 then that would be incredible. I'd like to be able to look back and feel as proud as I do now. With that in mind, it only seems right to leave some goals here...

 Reach 5,000 followers on Instagram.

 Reach 600 followers on Facebook.

 Reach 350 sales on Etsy.

 Reach 100 reviews on Etsy.

 Expand my website and what it offers users.

 Celebrate my achievements when they happen not just at the end of the year.

 Take time out for self care.

Use the 3895759 notebooks you keep holding onto for no good reason.

Okay, so that last one is one I added in and is overly ambitious but a girl can dream...

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